This week I give you my top ten tools I would buy again if I had to. In no particular order.

With Christmas just around the corner and the only update I have for you on our One Room Challenge is trim that I painted, I felt a tool list round up would be a great way to get your juices flowing on what you should ask Santa for.

Some of the links I share are affiliate links, and if you purchase through them it won’t cost you any extra, however, I may be paid a small commission. That small support helps me keep the lights on and we appreciate all of it.

My Christmas tool wishlist for you

a router and a dovetail jig are the perfect complimentary tools to help make solid drawers that will last a lifetime.
I couldn’t have made the blind dovetail joints for the drawers in our vanities without a router. Well, maybe I could. I would just still be cutting them.

1. Router

Mike learned years ago that the way to my heart is through a power tool. Every Christmas he buys me a new tool I have been drooling over. One year he bought me a router and router table. I hadn’t asked for it and I was nervous to try it.

I went to the store to look for a dado bit as my first router project and the guy at the store told me a router is too powerful of a tool for me and I will hurt myself. He said I should use a dado blade on my table saw instead.

I already had a dado blade.

I’d already been making my dados with a dado blade.

And so, I did not use the router Mike bought me or the table. In fact, it sat in its box for another three years. One day, I told Mike I was going to sell it on Craigslist. He said, “No way,” and set it up for me. He showed me how to use it and I couldn’t believe how easy it was.

Friends, that guy at the store we will not mention lost a sale (because I already had a dado blade) and I also allowed his opinion to keep me from growing as a finish carpenter.

I now have four routers. And two tables. I keep one set up just for dados. Another I use for trim detail routing. The other two are handhelds and one is a plunge router. Buy the router, use the router, it’s magical.

To get back to the point

This Dewalt Router is a great basic, hardworking, well made tool that many professionals use and continue to buy over and over. I know one cabinet maker who had four of these set up in his shop assembly style to make drawer and cabinet making streamlined. It’s a great first router.

If you already have a router but want another one, or need some accessories may I suggest one of these tools:

a look into our toilet room or wc, the first totally complete room since our flood, we used a makita multi-tool or oscillating tool to cut the hole for the toilet roll paper holder.
The Multi-tool is our MVP. It made installing this recessed toilet paper holder a breeze.

2. Multi-tool or oscillating tool

By far the multi-tool is my number one favorite tool. We just added it to our collection a year or so ago. I can not believe we went that long without it.

Don’t be like us, if you can buy one, get one. I use it for every single wall penetration cut I need to make. I have been using it a ton on our flood restoration projects for simple things like trimming a small piece of trim or larger cuts like this hole we made this week for our toilet paper holder.

panel molding is being cut on a dewalt miter saw with an inside corner

3. Miter saw

The first power cutting tool I ever bought was a jigsaw. The second was a miter saw – used from Craigslist. This one we bought just before we began our second story addition. A few months into the project it was stolen. It felt pretty defeating and we went back to using my saw with the sock.

When we were able to, we replaced it with the same exact model.

Our recent pantry remodel got a nice upgrade by using the table saw to rip the beadboard panels and plywood shelves.
Creating variable depth pantry shelves is a lot easier when you have your own table saw. Even the beadboard panels were cut on our table saw.

4. Table saw

This is without a doubt the most used tool I own. There isn’t a single build I can think of that I haven’t used a table saw.

I got away without one for a really long time by using a straight edge and a circular saw or having the store cut my wood. I even used my jigsaw in the beginning.

But now that I have one, I will not ever not have one.

Table saw alternatives

But I get it, table saws are expensive. They are bulky and if you are limited on space you may not be able to justify buying one.

Here’s a few alternatives that I use when I am traveling or cutting large sheets of plywood or cement board by myself.

favorite tools for joinery are clamps and a kreg jig make drilling pocket holes an easy venture with any standard drill. Joannie is holding a drill and joining a piece of trim around a refrigerator opening
I can’t go a day without using my drill. Here I am helping a friend add some trim to her kitchen.

5. Drill

Okay, you probably already have one of these tools. But maybe yours is a beginner drill or a cheaper model. We love this one and we have bought/replaced it three times. We use the heck out of them.

If you would like to know all about your drill - like what all the numbers and brushless means, I go into detail ad-nauseam on Instagram.

6. Jigsaw

Remember when I said this was the first power saw I bought? Crazy right? I used that tool to cut everything. With a speed square or a straight edge you can easily get by with just this one saw for a very long time.

Creating unique wood details is possible combining tools like a jig saw and router. You can see an example of this piece of wood I repurposed for the side of the rv fridge to cover a gap.
I used a jig saw to cut the outline of this wood detail I added to the side of our RV fridge, then my router to cut the profile.

I always have this irrational fear of cutting through the cord. I now have a cordless jigsaw and it makes me a lot less nervous.

Joannie holding a speed square against a wood jig she is making to hack an ikea drawer front
The most under utilized tool could arguably be the speed square

7. Speed square

I use this tool all the time: setting trim reveals, squaring up my saws, drawing quick straight lines, or drawing 45 degrees. Basically 99.999999% of all my tutorials I recommend using a speed square. They are inexpensive and so useful.

8. Level

It’s really hard to put up trim that looks good without a level. I use different length levels all the time. However, I do wish I’d remember to use our laser level more. Especially when I am installing wall paneling.

Joannie positions a fixed blade utility knife in the corner of a baseboard to remove excess painter's tape before painting.
Tape quickly and easily by over taping the corners and cutting away the excess with this utility knife

9. Fixed blade knife

Mike and I agreed, this is our favorite type of utility knife. We both grab this tool every time we need to make a sharp cut. The ability to change the blade without a screw driver is such a timesaver.

These new ones are looking nice and shiny. I may need to pick another one up.

Joannie is trimming wallpaper along crown dentil molding and using her fixed blade utility knife tool.
I could find a zillion other pictures just like this because I use this knife all the time

10. Finish Nailer

This tool is my baby. I dropped it once a few months back and broke it. I immediately went to the store and bought another one. I didn’t even think about the cost. It felt like when you take your pet to the vet and they tell you how much. It doesn’t matter that you got that dog from a rescue that practically begged you to take him.

He’s priceless.

I use it all the time to install trim or hold things in place until glue cures. I also use it to build a quick box, drawer, bookcase or cabinet when I am in a time crunch and not totally vested in the “craft” of the product.

  • My finish nail gun – when you take into account the cost to buy an air compressor and hose this one makes sense to invest in.
  • Standard starter finish nail gun
  • My pin nailer – she’s a bit temperamental and fragile, I don’t totally recommend buying this, it’s kind of a luxury item and I have already replaced her *embarrassingly* 2 times. Buy it if you have money to burn.

Honorable Mentions:

Check these out next

If you enjoyed this list, here’s a list of my favorite inexpensive tools that make great stocking stuffers or small gifts for the other diy’ers in your life.

This post is part of the 8 week series of blog posts for our Fall 2022 One Room Challenge. We are focusing on getting our ensuite finished. Here’s a link to the past couple of weeks where I shared how to install baseboards, trim archways, install wainscoting and put up shiplap.

If you knew I painted this week and were hoping for some paint tips, don’t worry, this past post of mine might cover it.

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Disclaimer: Working with power tools and DIY projects can be dangerous and post inherent risks. While we work hard to ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of the tutorials along with the information displayed on this website, Hambels Get Real cannot be held responsible for damages or losses sustained or incurred in the course of your project or in the use of the item you create.

one room challenge logo for shared girls bathroom

If you would like to read more about the challenge or see the incredible transformations being done by other guest designers, click here.

apartment therapy the official media partner of the one room challenge

Apartment Therapy is the official media partner for the One Room Challenge. I am pretty excited about it. They do such a great job featuring small time and big time designers.

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